Ah, it’s Halloween. Surely you have a favorite scary film list rattling around in your brains (mmmm…brains)…here are some sites to help you jog your memory.
I’ll share a few…
- The Exorcist (1973). I didn’t get to see this film at release (I was 10), so I saw it on video and it met all my expectations regarding nightmares. The scene where the beast rises in a shadow in Regan’s room freaks me out.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (2004), Day of the Dead (2008). Zombies rule. I saw the original on the big screen for the first time at one of the old revival houses in NYC in the 80s; that it was shot in black and white made it very effective. Dawn and Day are unmercifully doom, gloom and gore, a perfect fit. The Day remake’s ending creeped into my nightmares for days.
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974): OK, this low-budget Tobe Hooper film felt so authentically deranged, and the acting borders on laughable to terrifying (jesus, the sounds and affect of Leatherman and those family members make are so gross and horrible) that my brother and I kept repeating their lines after watching it. I think I’ve see this one at least 5 times. I didn’t bother with any of the remakes.
- Jaws (1975): I was 12 when I went to see this (what was my mom thinking?), and between Spielberg’s direction, the John Williams score and Verna Field’s editing, you really believed the shark was real (the infamous malfunctioning shark “Bruce” forced Spielberg to creatively work around it). Best creep/scare scenes: Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss goes underwater to explore a sunken boat and a head pops out of it; Quint (Robert Shaw), talking about the sharks feeding on the crew of the USS Indianapolis when it sank; Brody (Roy Scheider) tossing chum overboard to draw the shark in an “Bruce” leaps out of the water suddenly. Everyone in the theater with me screamed when that happened; the brilliance is that your heart is racing then you immediately switch to laughing out lou when Brody tells Quint “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”
- The Thing (1982). Saw this one in the theatre. The tension and level of suspense that John Carpenter maintains in this film is incredible; you don’t know who has been taken over by the creature, and neither do the characters. When Kurt Russell’s character “tests” his crewmates’ blood to see who is “The Thing” I just about lost it. Great editing, really interesting FX for the day.
Carrie (1976): This is another one of those films I cannot believe my mom let me go see, lol. Generally most of this film is not scary, it’s pretty sad following the taunting and emotional abuse of Carrie (Sissy Spacek) at school and home. Piper Laurie as her bible-beatring freak job of a mother is so f*cking insanely good that she gave me nightmares. The final sequence had everyone in the theater screaming. The awesomely bad 70s fashion sense is equally terrifying.
Trilogy of Terror (1975 TV, the Zuni hunting fetish doll sequence). This scared the sh*t out of me back when it first aired. This was during the golden age of TV movies on ABC. The Movies of the Week are so cheesy when seen today, but if you were a kid and saw this segment of Trilogy of Terror, you weren’t thinking about its low budget or now-lame effects, the editing and pacing had you flipping scared of that demon doll chasing Karen Black around her house.
The X-Files episode “Home” (1996). Honest-to-god I don’t know how this episode made it on the air. It’s so graphic and crazed — again, it’s about a family of inbred mutants like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but much, much more TMI about the inbreeding as Mulder and Scully investigate what looks like a murder of a deformed baby in a small town. See the synopsis here. A clip with snippets of the moody horror scenes that made it one of the series’ most popular episodes.
Some of the ones that are on various lists never scared me: Psycho, The Sixth Sense (I love that film, but find it melancholy, not scary), Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, The Blair Witch Project (mind-numbingly boring). It’s all a matter of perspective, taste and generationally, when you saw the films.
What’s on your list and why?
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